John Gwilliam

John Gwilliam
Full name John Albert Gwilliam
Date of birth (1923-02-28) 28 February 1923
Place of birth Pontypridd, Wales
Occupation(s) teacher
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position No 8
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
Cambridge University R.U.F.C.
Edinburgh Wanderers
Gloucester RFC
Newport RFC
London Welsh RFC
Llanelli RFC
London Wasps
Barbarian F.C.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1947–1954 Wales 23 (0)

John Albert Gwilliam (born 28 February 1923)[1] is a Welsh former rugby union player and teacher. As a "No. 8" he played international rugby for Wales and club rugby for Cambridge University, Edinburgh Wanderers, Gloucester, Newport, London Welsh, Llanelli and Wasps. He captained the Wales rugby union team when they achieved Grand Slam victories in the 1950 and 1952 Five Nations Championships.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Gwilliam played in his first international game on 20 December 1947 against Australia. He went on to win 23 caps for Wales, including notable victories over Australia in 1947 and the All Blacks in 1953; 13 of these games were as captain. His last international game was against England on 16 January 1954. In 2005 he was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.[8][9]

Gwilliam was born in Pontypridd, the son of Thomas Albert and Adela Audrey Gwilliam. He attended Monmouth School and went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1941. After spending a year at Cambridge, he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment and saw action in Europe. The historian Max Hastings reports an incident at Rathau where Gwilliam was carrying a small German soldier by the scruff of his neck. Asked why he didn't just shoot the man, Gwilliam purportedly replied "Oh no sir. Much too small".[10] After the war, he returned to Cambridge and then became a schoolmaster. He taught at Glenalmond College, Perth (1949–52), at Bromsgrove School (1952–56), as Head of Lower School at Dulwich College (1956–63) and eventually as Headmaster of Birkenhead School from 1963 to 1988, where he is remembered for his disciplinary standards and his religious views.[11][12]

He was described "as physically imposing, quietly spoken, religious and austere – the phrase 'Cromwellian' tends to recur in descriptions."[13]

He married Pegi Lloyd George in 1949 and has three sons and two daughters. He lives in retirement at Llanfairfechan, Gwynedd.

He is related to West Ham United and Wales midfielder Jack Collison.[14]


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